More than 7,500 people just purchased a 13th-century castle in France together.
It’s either the world’s worst timeshare scheme or a clever act of preservationist crowdfunding. Thousands of people rallied together online to buy the Chateau de la Mothe-Chandeniers, raising more than €615,900 ($729,000) to save it from ruin or destruction.
Locals in France’s Poitou-Charentes region, which is about 200 miles southwest of Paris, joined forces with Dartagnans, a company that specializes in raising money to save historic buildings, to launch a crowdfunding campaign. The money from the campaign will be used to buy the castle, restore it and eventually open it up to the public.
The castle has an illustrious history, which dates back to the 13th century. It was taken by the English twice during the Middle Ages and ruined during the French Revolution. The property changed hands several times until Baron Edgard Lejeune purchased it and began reconstruction in 1870. Around this time, the castle became a thriving place where the baron threw lavish parties, until a fire swept through and destroyed most of the building in 1932.
It remained empty until 1981, when Marc Deyemer bought the land, intending to restore it.
“I killed myself for two years trying to save it with preservation works, but I was sickened when my projects were torpedoed by certain people,” Deyemer told French news five years ago. “I’m tempted to declare it a ruin so it can be destroyed.”
Today the castle grounds are overgrown, the building is crumbling around the windows, and the estate is badly in need of repairs. Cue crowdfunding.
The campaign asks future owners to contribute at least €50 ($59) to stake their claim to the castle. Although the thousands of co-owners won’t be able to drop in whenever they like, they will have a say in the castle’s development and restoration and be among the first to visit upon completion.
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“The idea is not just about raising the money, but getting as many people as possible to participate in saving this magical, fairytale place,” Romain Delaume, the founder of Dartagnans, told The Guardian. “The more the merrier.”
The project will continue crowdfunding until Christmas Day. It has already reached the goal of raising €500,000 to buy the building. Now it hopes to raise an additional €500,000 to begin reconstruction.